The Cork native had a somewhat easy victory in the opening round in Carrick-on-Suir a few weeks ago, where all his main rivals had troubled outings.
With former champion co-driver James O’Brien alongside him, O’Brien will have to push hard from the start of the six stages near Pettigoe. The Antrim/Cork combination of Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan are set to drive a Mitsubishi as opposed to the Subaru WRC that netted them the runner-up spot in Carrick, where they recovered strongly following a problematic opening loop.
Having missed the opening round, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett is unsure which car he will drive. “I’m hoping that the Class 20 Mitsubishi will be ready. If not, I will drive the Group N Mitsubishi. The championship was very much part of the plan at the beginning of the season but after driving the Fiesta WRC I’m not so sure.”
Moffett also wants to continue with the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship as well as rounds of the European Rally Championship, both of whom dovetail on the forthcoming Circuit of Ireland.
Meanwhile, Enda McNulty (Subaru) is seeded fourth ahead of Waterford’s Andrew Purcell (Mitsubishi) and his Cork co-driver Liam Brennan, who will be determined to bounce back after retiring from the opening round. Purcell is probably the favourite but needs an untroubled run. The top 10 also features the Mitsubishis of Gerard Lucey, Niall Henry, Andrew Fanning, Darren McKelvey and Ashley Dickson.
In the two-wheel drive category, the principals are Adrian Hetherington, Mickey Conlon, Paul Barrett and James Coleman, all in Escorts, with the impressive Kevin Eves (Peugeot 208 R2) favourite to win the Juniors. Based at the Allingham Arms in Bundoran, the opening stage is at 11.40am.
The final round of Motorsport Ireland National Navigation Trial Championship takes place in Monaghan tomorrow night. With the destiny of the overall title already decided, the various categories are still down for decision.
Based at the Aughnamullen GAA Club, the first car away is at 9pm tomorrow night.
Although the Tribunal of Inquiry set up to consider certain matters arising from last year’s Wexford Rally recommended “the Wexford Motor Club should take some form of action against all of its members who were involved in this disgraceful episode, except for those seven members of the club who have already been called to account for their actions,” the Wexford club has yet to receive official correspondence on the issue. Club chairman and former president of Motorsport Ireland John Naylor told the Irish Examiner: “We can’t deal with it as we have heard nothing formal from Motorsport Ireland.”
Naylor also clarified the position in relation to Pat O’Dowd, who was clerk of the course of the Wexford event for many years.
“It was always Pat’s intention to step down after the 2104 rally- irrespective of anything. He is the first FIA Technical Delegate in the Wexford Club and he will be concentrating on that.”
The Tuthill Porsche 911, normally driven by French ace Francois Delecour, will be campaigned by Northern Ireland’s Robert Woodside in the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland (April 2-4).
Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis said: “This is fantastic news. I’m delighted for Robert Woodside and his co-driver Allan Harryman. Such an iconic car is sure to attract even more spectators to each of the stages.”
Navigation Trial, Aughnamullen GAA Club. 9pm.